75 Soft Challenge: The Fitness Trend All About Being Thoughtful To Your Body

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In 2019, a high-difficulty, inflexible self-improvement challenge exploded in popularity on TikTok. The still-coveted 75-day routine — known as the 75 hard challenge — consists of five rigid rules. The first rule requires a strict diet plan of your choice and does not allow alcohol. You're expected to complete two 45-minute workouts each day (one must be outdoors), drink one gallon of water, and read at least ten pages of a non-fiction personal development book each day. Lastly, you must take a progress photo of your body every single day. Unfortunately, many observers quickly noted that these rigid rules and intense focus on physical appearance can encourage disordered behavior. 


As a response, TikTok user Stephen Gallagher posted a well-received video reviewing his own more attainable challenge: the 75 soft challenge. This challenge also presents a set of rules around nutrition, exercise, water intake, and reading and is meant to be followed for 75 days as a way to improve your determination, health, and relationship with yourself. This version, however, is all about treating your mind and body with kindness and celebrating what they can do rather than obsessing over what your body looks like. Flexibility is encouraged as long as your choices ultimately lead you closer to achieving your goals. Let's examine the details of the challenge.

Rule One: eat more nutritious foods, limit alcohol

Rather than picking a restrictive diet plan and running with it, the 75 soft challenge encourages you to add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, as per Stephen Gallagher's TikTok clip. This could mean simply replacing your nightly dessert with fresh fruit or adding a serving of vegetables to each meal for 75 days. Since most fruits and vegetables are high in water and fiber, consuming more of them tends to keep you feeling fuller and less likely to reach for more calorie-dense snacks.


Unlike 75 hard, 75 soft allows for alcohol on social occasions. If you typically have a glass of wine with dinner every night, you'll need to cut that habit out for the next 75 days. However, the surprise birthday you've been planning for your best friend for weeks is fair game. There also aren't any rules about an occasional indulgent meal during these events since you aren't required to adhere to a restrictive diet plan. 

Rule two: Exercise for 45 minutes each day

The second rule of the 75 soft challenge, according to Stephen Gallagher's TikTok video, states that you must train your body for 45 minutes each day, with the exception of one active rest day each week. Active rest means skipping a structured workout but still incorporating low-impact movements like walking, swimming, or yoga into your day. This keeps your body in active mode even as you recover from more strenuous workouts you put in over the week.


There are no rules to what type of training you partake in. Any intentional movement you can think of is a viable option, explains Sunny Health & Fitness. That might look like traditional cardio such as running or hiking, weight lifting, playing an active sport, or gentle strength training like Pilates. You're also not required to choose the same type of workout each day, so you're free to mix it up however you see fit. If you struggle with exercising consistently during certain phases of your menstrual cycle, consider incorporating cycle syncing into your 75 soft challenge. 

Rule three: Drink three liters of water daily

If you are someone who routinely struggles with drinking enough water each day, jumping straight into the one gallon a day required by the 75 hard challenge is likely to feel overwhelming and unattainable. That breaks down to a whopping 16 cups a day. Instead, the 75 soft challenge requires you to drink three liters of water each day, as per Stephen Gallagher's TikTok, which is the equivalent of about 12 cups. While a four-cup difference might not seem like a lot now, it will when you're struggling to drink it each and every day.


Investing in a water bottle with measurement and/or time markings can help immensely with meeting your water intake goals. Knowing how much you should be drinking throughout the day may prevent you from panic drinking until you feel sick in the evening. If you still struggle with drinking enough, consider adding a flavor or electrolyte additive or infusing your water with fresh fruit, herbs, or herbal tea bags. 

Rule four: Read 10 pages of a book per day

Personal development books aren't for everyone. Reading any book is better than not reading at all, right? This is all that's required to complete the reading portion of the 75 soft challenge. Grab any book and read 10 pages, explains Stephen Gallagher in his clip. By the end of the challenge, you will have read 750 pages, the equivalent of about four average-length self-help books or two and a half average-length novels.


While the training portion of the 75 hard and soft challenges tends to get the most attention, the reading goals might actually be the most tangible representation of how small habits can add up to big accomplishments. The average reader reads about 40 pages per hour, meaning that 10 pages a day only translates to about 10 minutes of reading for most people. If you were to continue this habit year-round, you'd end up reading about 12 novels or 20 self-help books each year.

Potential pitfalls

The risks involved in following an extremely rigid, restrictive, and demanding routine like the 75 hard challenge are obvious (via Forbes Health). Adhering to a strict restrictive diet plan, spending 90 minutes working out every day without rest, and scrutinizing photos of your body are asking for disordered behaviors to emerge. This approach ties nutritious eating and exercise to the appearance of your body rather than to your health, which can fuel body image issues.


The 75 soft challenge is less rigid in its approach and forgoes the obsessive focus on the way your body looks. However, any structured challenge that includes a fitness aspect can trigger someone who is prone to disordered eating or exercise habits. Before you embark on any diet or exercise plan, it's important that you know your own tendencies. If the competitive nature of a social media challenge sounds like something that could negatively affect you, consider altering or skipping the challenge. 

How to adapt the challenge for you

The main goal of any personal development challenge is to set goals and follow through with them. Reaching your goals instills trust in yourself and releases chemicals like dopamine in your brain, according to Psychology Today. This keeps you coming back for more by setting new goals and achieving them over and over again. The content of the goals is less important — especially in the beginning — than getting into the habit of working on and achieving them.


If you're drawn to the idea of setting a period of daily goals for yourself, but you feel like the nature of the rules of the 75 soft challenge might trigger problematic behavior for you, change them. If an open-ended "healthy" diet plan triggers disordered eating, make a goal of eating one fresh salad a day instead. If working out for 45 minutes a day will turn into two obsessive hours in the gym, set a goal of taking a leisurely walk outside each day instead. If you know you'll get too competitive, keep track of your goals in your bullet journal and skip posting on social media. Personal development is just that — personal. Take what works for you and leave or change the rest.